Williams’ work ethic drives her suc­cess

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Sports - By Doug Bon­jour

STORRS — The best player that Steve Qu­at­tle­baum ever coached didn’t just love to prac­tice. She was ob­sessed with it.

Christyn Williams would spend hours upon hours in the gym at Cen­tral Arkansas Chris­tian School, work­ing to per­fect her shot. She was in there so of­ten, in fact, that Qu­at­tle­baum, the school’s long­time girls bas­ket­ball coach, wor­ried the ex­ten­sive work­outs she put her­self through would ul­ti­mately take their toll.

“She’d leave our prac­tices and go — two or three nights a week we didn’t have games — into an­other gym for a pri­vate work­out with some­body,” Qu­at­tle­baum re­called Fri­day by phone. “We just con­stantly wor­ried about her work­ing out too much.”

At times, Qu­at­tle­baum en­cour­aged Williams to scale back her rou­tine, fear­ing that if she didn’t rest, she would ei­ther get burnt out, or worse, hurt. Williams, how­ever, never seemed to lis­ten.

“He used to tell me to rest. … I was like, ‘I’m just go­ing to the gym,’” Williams said with a laugh Fri­day.

All along, there was a method to her mad­ness. There was a rea­son why Williams prac­ti­cally made the gym her sec­ond home — why she never wanted to leave.

“She’s al­ways been a con­fi­dent player be­cause she knows she’s put the work in,” Qu­at­tle­baum said. “She’s played against great com­pe­ti­tion, not just in our set­ting, but with the Olympic teams and AAU in the sum­mer. She’s played against the best.”

Williams, the con­sen­sus top player in the Class of 2018, is tal­ented, driven and supremely con­fi­dent — maybe, at times, a lit­tle too con­fi­dent. In June, the 5foot-11 guard guar­an­teed that UConn will cap­ture its 12th na­tional cham­pi­onship this sea­son, though head coach Geno Auriemma seems will­ing to give her a mul­li­gan for that bold pre­dic­tion.

“She’s supremely tal­ented and supremely con­fi­dent,” Auriemma said. “Like, re­ally con­fi­dent. Not like fake, pre­tend con­fi­dence.” Added Williams: “This is just my nor­mal per­son­al­ity.”

This con­fi­dence, Qu­at­tle­baum says, is part of what set Williams apart in high school — along with, of course, her smooth lefty shoot­ing stroke and non­stop mo­tor. Qu­at­tle­baum al­ways mar­veled at how Williams al­ways seemed to rel­ish the spotlight, specif­i­cally those in­stances when college coaches would be sit­ting in the stands.

Take this story, from her sopho­more year, for ex­am­ple: “In the quar­ter­fi­nals against Star City, the Univer­sity of Arkansas coaches were at the game. Coach (Jimmy) Dykes was coach­ing them at the time. He usu­ally called me when they were com­ing to watch a game,” Qu­at­tle­baum said. “Star City had a re­ally good player. I told Christyn be­fore the game, ‘Did Coach Dykes say any­thing to you about com­ing tonight?’ She said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, they must be here to look at the girl from Star City.’ She an­swered, ‘Oh, OK.’”

Williams promptly went out and scored 41 of her team’s 47 points, lead­ing them to a vic­tory.

“You know how a lot of kids, when a well-known coach is com­ing to watch them play, they don’t al­ways play their best games? Christyn al­ways did,” Qu­at­tle­baum con­tin­ued. “That was a mo­ti­va­tion to her, to show them how good she was. … That’s just part of her con­fi­dence.”

Last year, af­ter she had signed with UConn, Williams av­er­aged 26.8 points, 10.4 re­bounds and 2.9 as­sists for Cen­tral Arkansas Chris­tian School. She won nu­mer­ous awards, in­clud­ing Nai­smith Player of the Year and Ga­torade Na­tional Player of the Year.

Williams — the third No. 1 over­all re­cruit in four years to join the Huskies, fol­low­ing Katie Lou Sa­muel­son in 2015 and Me­gan Walker in 2017 — has brought that bravado to her first few prac­tices in Storrs. Given how the team’s ros­ter is shap­ing up prior to the Nov. 4 ex­hi­bi­tion opener against Van­guard, the Huskies are hop­ing it’ll trans­late to game­days.

“We’ll prob­a­bly go­ing to start two kids that have never started a game, ever,” Auriemma said. “When was the last time that hap­pened? We’re go­ing to start one kid who’s never started any games — played any games. The kids com­ing off the bench have ab­so­lutely zero play­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in any mean­ing­ful sit­u­a­tions. When was the last time that hap­pened?

“It’s been a while. We’re in a si­t­u­a­tion that we haven’t been in. And it’s go­ing to take time to shake it all out.”


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